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Baptist family escapes fury of Hurricane Keith

REVISED Tuesday 8/28/07

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (BP)–A week and a half ago, missionary Peter Wilson* stood in the streets of Belize in Central America with water up to his knees. Little did he know that within a few hours, hard rain and heavy winds would turn into category four winds and rain, and Hurricane Keith would tear through most of the country.

Wilson, his wife, Tanya*, and their 2 1/2-year-old son, Stephen*, formerly from Dayton, Tenn., were on their way to the local capitol building to flee the storm that afternoon when their car broke down near the airport. Wison said this was God’s way of telling him his family needed to get out of the country.

Without any reservations, airport officials gave the family three seats on the last evacuation flight out of the country. Wilson said those seats belonged to some American tourists who were stranded on a nearby island, and the plane had to take off with or without them.

The family made it out safely and returned to the states on Sept. 30, leaving behind their home and all its contents, their car and many loved ones. Wilson considers Belize his home, since he has poured over 10 years of his life there.

“God saved us and has us here to be the voice of Belize,” Wilson said Monday, hoping to take relief back to their country.

According to Wilson, the country’s national emergency management organization has sent helicopters out to observe the toll the storm has taken on the people of Belize. With waters too high to land, officials are unable to rescue many people, they can just observe the damage. Officials estimate the damage at nearly $200 million and declared the country a disaster area.

There doesn’t seem to be a clearing in the sky for Belizeans either — Wilson said it could take up to two months for the roads to become passable again if the rain stops, but Belize is now in the middle of rainy season that will likely continue through December.

Not knowing the status of those remaining in Belize, Wilson and his family are spending their time in the states raising money and collecting food to take back to their stricken country.

“I have reports that some are dead, most are homeless and all should be hungry,” Wilson told Bryan students during Monday morning’s chapel service. “That is why we are here now-to get help for our people.” Wilson visited the small country of Belize first while attending Bryan College.

First Baptist Church in Dayton, the couple’s home church, and Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, are taking donations of money and non-perishable food items for Wilson to take to Belize on Oct. 18.

For more information call First Baptist Church at 423-775-0255 or the Belize Disaster Relief hotline at 423-505-1027.

As soon as travel is safe, the Wilsons plan to move “home” to Belize to continue their ministry begun over 10 years ago, he said.
This story first appeared in The Herald News, Dayton, Tenn. and is used here by permission.
*Names changed to protect missionaries.

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  • Ginger Summerlin